DIY | Autumn Craft Jars

Happy October, everyone!

Christmas is traditionally the time of year when we go all out with decorations- lights, tinsel, maybe even an ironic stocking- but with a new season sweeping in, I love decorating for autumn, too. I’m not just talking about hanging up some skeletons for Hallowe’en. This season offers us such a beautiful palette that it’d be remiss to not use it as an opportunity for some home décor.

Most of my Instagram feed have already plundered TK Maxx for their wares (myself included). If you’re on a limited budget (also myself included, my TK Maxx haul was a candle and bunting) you can still add a little festive spice- pumpkin, if you wish- with some super easy autumn crafts.

A quick descend into a Pinterest abyss can offer a wealth of crafty ideas but if your resources are limited, I’ve got you covered. Decorated jars are easy to make, hella resourceful and budget friendly. They look pretty, and if you reuse old jars, I dunno, does that count as recycling? Or upcycling? I like to think so. Here’s my five step guide to making an autumn jar…

Firstly, you’ll need..

  • Some jars (coffee jars, candle jars, mason jars, the choice is yours)
  • Leaves (duh)
  • Mod Podge or PVA Glue mixed with a li’l water (the Mod Podge also acts as a sealant as well but glue does the job if you don’t have any handy)
  • A paint brush

Forage

This is arguably the most fun part. This is the perfect time of year to gather leaves, they’re not too crunchy (and therefore won’t stick) and we’ve not been so ravaged by rainstorms that they’re basically mush.

The colours of fallen leaves this time of year are perfect too: it’s the most vibrant palette of deep reds and golden yellows, and even the odd green straggler.

Go a long walk on a dry day and pick as wide a variety as you can. Plus it’s nice being outside when you’re doing something you actually want to do, right?

I also found it helpful to press ’em before sticking them on, just to make sure they’re nice and flat. It makes it easier for sticking on to the jar, as you don’t have any wee end bits sticking up. Kids’ hardback books are especially good. If there’s any moisture on the leaves, line the pages with kitchen roll to get out the last of it.

Gather Your Tools

Y’know when you go through jars of coffee, decide you’re going through too many and switch to the refills, and find yourself with a box full of empty jars you dunno what to do with?

If, like me, that’s a resounding yes I’ve got good news- it’s time to harvest.

If not, you can reuse a candle jar, or buy one. Whatever works, as long as it’s big enough to stick some leaves on.

We got Mod Podge in Hobbycraft, purely because we were in the shop, the packaging is retro A.F. and I figured if I had the means to make crafts I might actually do it. It’s not as cheap as regulation PVA glue, and not as widely available. If you like, you can mix some PVA glue with water and it’s basically the same thing.

Your paintbrush doesn’t matter, although a smaller one might be good to work quickly with the glue. I had a load of bog standard ones I got from The Works, and some kiddy friendly ones from Tesco- basically anything that you’re not gonna be precious with.

Glue the First

Using your brush, apply a thin layer of Mod Podge to the area you want to stick your leaves on. Apply the first leaf, making sure it’s all nice and smooth. Hold it on for a few seconds to make sure it doesn’t peel off, or until the Mod Podge goes slightly tacky. If you need to, you can apply some more glue around the edges to make sure it sticks. Continue with your other leaves until you’ve applied as many as you like.

Glue the Second

Once you’ve stuck your leaves on and it’s dried off a little, paint another thin layer of Mod Podge to seal the deal. The regular stuff has a matte finish, but there’s also a gloss version if you want a bit of shine.

Ta-Da!

Once the glue’s dried you can do whatever you want with it: we tied some twine into a bow around the neck of the glass, and you can fill it with candles or fairy lights if you’re feeling extra. See? Told you it was easy.

DIY | Making Mountains

As you may know, we bought our first house in April. After years of renting, it was such an exciting prospect to start making it into a home. Plus, y’know, it’s nice to pay your own mortgage at a lesser amount to someone else’s. I’d been dreaming of decorating my own place for so long that I thought I’d want to batter in at full pelt, with swatches and samples in every colour scheme, shade and finish. Turns out moving twice with a baby is knackering. By the time we’d unpacked, cleaned, vaguely rearranged the furniture and stocked up on essentials, we kind of ran out of steam.

Even for an old person’s room this would be ‘eh’

I had an idea of what I wanted for Lucas’s room. I wanted something that would grow with him, but was still suitable for a baby’s room. The colour scheme I had in mind was neutral, so that I could tart up it with accessories. It also had to look homely and playful, but still practical. And nothing involving wallpaper. So far, so many, many requests. Thankfully I’d spotted mountain murals during a tumble down the Pinterest abyss and they ticked all of my boxes. They range from simple and stylistic to complicated and multi-tonal. What I liked, was that it could be as intricate (or not) as you wanted.

In the end, I had so many images pinned that mine became a sort of composite of everything. Having zero experience in the field of DIY (other than glossing windows at seven months pregnant and painting my bathroom window), I recorded it at every step of the way. There were loads of ideas online and a few decent tutorials. Since it’s our first attempt I thought I’d put together a wee step-by-step guide of my own, so here it is!

Research It!

Even if you have a vague hypothetical image, keep an open mind. Have a quick shufti on Pinterest, if it’s possible to do so. Look for blogs, articles, tutorials, videos, hell even a Google image search. You might find layouts or colour schemes you hadn’t thought of, or other decorative ideas. Save ’em, pin ’em, stash ’em in a folder. This can give a good indication of what colours you’re going to use. Roughly speaking you’ll need light, mid and dark tones so make sure your colours mix together.

Samples and tester pots are handy as they can often look different once applied, and even days later. I didn’t put too much thought into where I bought my supplies: there’s a B&Q about two minutes’ drive from my house.

There were loads of murals I liked: some more complicated than others, but mostly all for larger rooms. In the end, I drew a sketch of what I wanted it to look like, mapped out what colours should go where and worked from that.

Have a good base to work from

The room was wallpapered when we moved in and stripping it was the biggest chore. We decided a white base was best to work from, as it’d best show up the mural and would give us a clean slate for the other walls. The previous owners had left a couple of tins of white emulsion- yass. This made our choice easier as even white emulsion is a minefield. We ended up using silk emulsion, which has a slight iridescent sheen to it. If you want something flatter, go for a matt. Silk is easier to wipe, but it can also show up imperfections, so go with whatever best suits your needs.

Choose your tools

I didn’t put a great deal of research into the paints I used. The plans I’d drawn required a light, mid and dark grey, and I went from there. My nearest DIY store was B&Q so went there for convenience, and had a browse of their testers. If you’re not sure what colours to go for, testers are great. I painted a few swatches and let them dry overnight, to see what they’d look like dry. I bought three Dulux shades: Warm PewterPolished Pebble and Urban Obsession. I ended up not using the latter as it was just too dark, but it depends on what you’re going for. For the background, I used colourcourage in Soft Grey. It dried to an almost beige-grey which complemented the other shades nicely.

We got paint pads for the white emulsion, instead of using a roller, as they gave better coverage with less splashback. I used a medium-sized one for the bulk of the mural coverage and tidied up the edges with a brush. Don’t forget a dust sheet if you don’t already have one. It’s a licence to make as much splattery mess as you want.

Make Your Mark

There were loads of murals I liked: some more complicated than others, but mostly all for larger rooms. In the end, I drew a sketch of what I wanted it to look like, mapped out what colours should go where and worked from that. The plan itself was pretty flexible. Once I knew what colours I was using I could play about with it. Even if you don’t stick with it to the letter, it’s handy to have a visual reminder. I measured the height of the wall then got bored of measuring. I’d also pinged myself in the hand with the retractable tape measure and it was hell’a nippy.

Plan in other hand, I marked the design on the wall using Frogtape. It’s easy to apply and can be moved about without losing its stickiness. Every time I stuck a bit down I’d step back and readjust to straighten up my lines. With a Scandi-inspired design you want your lines to be clean. Frogtape is great for giving you really sharp lines. Trim off any excess or overlapping tape with a cutting knife or super-sharp scissors. You don’t want any sad, flaccid, blunt lines.

Little hint: once you’ve got your tape where you want it, give it a wipe with a wet cloth or sponge and it won’t budge ’til you want it to. (This isn’t a sponsored post or anything, I just bought, like, three kinds of Frogtape and it turned out pretty sweet).

Have At It

Now that it’s all been marked off, start with the biggest area (that requires the most coverage) first. That way, you can work round the fiddly edges while the middle bit is drying. I started with the mid-grey that made up most of the mountain, then got in about the shady shapes behind it. The peaks were the last thing to start and finish.

Once you’ve painted the edges, remove the tape immediately (or at the very most, after an hour or so). That way, you’ll get the sharpest lines and the paint won’t bleed.

Yes, you’ll need to keep applying the tape to get your lines straight and fill in the gaps. Don’t do this right away. Leave it for an hour or so, or you run the risk of the tape ripping off your paint. When you paint on one side of the tape, you’ll need to adjust it to fill in any blank space. It’s fiddly, but the whole design relies on straight lines, so it’s worth the extra effort.

Don’t paint a second coat while the first is still drying- this will make the paint blister and it’ll look weird. Crack a window and leave it for a day. I repeated the process the following day until the paint was smooth and even, the edges were sharp and any blotchy bits had been fixed. Voila- a mountain mural.

The room is still far from being finished- the opposite wall is a complete blank canvas, and as you can see we don’t have curtains yet. The mural gave a good basis for the room’s colour scheme though, so we have a better idea of what else to put in it. This IKEA Gonatt cotbed also comes in white, but the grey sold me on it. It has two heights and you can remove the bars on one side to make it into a bed. Perfect for the whole ‘room that grows with the baby’ thing. There are other random bits and little touches to give the room some colour, too. For a work in progress, and a first attempt at DIY, I’m pretty proud of it. If you’re attempting something similar, I hope this little guide was useful (even as a fan letter to Frogtape).